Conventional knowledge, general attitudes and risk perceptions towards zoonotic diseases among Maasai in northern Tanzania

Heliyon. 2021 May 20;7(5):e07041. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e07041. eCollection 2021 May.


Understanding factors influencing conventional medical knowledge (CMK), general attitudes and risk perceptions of zoonotic diseases among rural residents who face risk of exposure to such diseases is important for human, livestock, and wildlife health. Focusing on Maasai from Makame, Kiteto District (Tanzania) who largely maintained a semi-nomadic lifestyle, we evaluated respondents' CMK of causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention methods of rabies, brucellosis, and anthrax. In addition, we identified socio-demographic correlates of CMK with respect to the target zoonoses. Finally, we assessed the relative frequency of practices that increase the risk of pathogen transmission, and compared the risk perception of the three diseases. We conducted structured interviews with Maasai respondents (n = 46) in six sub-villages of Makame and considered education, gender, age, and wealth (indicated by standardized number of livestock) as potential correlates of CMK. Respondents had greater CMK of rabies and anthrax, but feared anthrax the most. Receiving formal education increased rabies CMK (p ≤ 0.05). The CMK of anthrax and brucellosis was not associated with any of the tested variables (p > 0.05). Risk perceptions were correlated with knowledge scores for rabies and anthrax (p ≤ 0.05), and multiple interviewees reported engaging in practices that potentially enhance pathogen transmission. Specific socio-demographic attributes (i.e., formal education) may explain the observed variation in CMK of zoonotic diseases. This information can be used to develop and tailor health education programs for specific at-risk groups.

Keywords: Anthrax; Brucellosis; Rabies; Risk perception; Zoonotic disease knowledge.